OER (Open Educational Resources) are “digitized materials offered openly and freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research.”1 Referring to the openness of open educational resources, John Hilton [et al] has written that
“the ‘open’ in open educational resources is not a simple binary concept; rather, the construct of openness is rich and multi-dimensional. To use an analogy, openness is not like a light switch that is either ‘on’ or ‘off.’ Rather it is like a dimmer switch, with varying degrees of openness.”2
It seems to me that one important aspect of defining what is meant by “openness” is to consider how easy the OER is to locate. Discoverability of an OER is thus an important consideration as to how genuinely open it really is. In order for OER to be reused it is necessary for them to be found. If an OER cannot be discovered, from a practical perspective it might as well be closed behind an institutional firewall.
Along similar lines, as Peter Suber points out in his Oct. 2013 Guardian article “Open Access: Six Myths Put to Rest,” there seems to be quite a bit of confusion in academia as to what open access does and doesn’t mean, and how it does and does not function. The difference between journal-delivered “gold” open access and repository “green” open access, for example, needs to be clarified and publicized in a clear way. Authors of scholarly articles, regardless of discipline, need to learn that their work can most likely be shared via green open access repository, even if the work initially appears in a conventional academic journal. I doubt that most scholars want their work to languish unread on remote library shelves and behind firewalls. If more people in the academic world knew what their publishing options actually were, and that rendering their work accessible is often an author-initiated choice, surely more of them would opt to open their scholarship to a potentially wider audience. Right?
1Bissell, Ahrash. “Permission Granted: Open Licensing for Educational Resources.” Open Learning, The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, vol. 24. 2009.
2 Hilton, J., Wiley, D., Stein, J., Johnson. “The Four R’s of Openness and ALMS Analysis: Frameworks for Open Educational Resources.” Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, vol. 25. 2010.